Screening on Campus: Effective and
By Rebecca A. Clay
the University of Massachusetts
Amherst, screening for substance
abuse is part of every student’s
experience during a visit to
the university clinic.
Although campus grantees use the SBIRT
model in a variety of ways, their goals
are the same.
No matter what the approach, grantees
work to combat underage drinking and
substance use, and they make screening
and brief intervention a regular part
of student health care.
Take the University of Massachusetts
Amherst, for example. Historically,
like many other campuses, the school
has a high rate of binge drinking.
In 2003, almost 77 percent of students
reported drinking five or more drinks
in a sitting—what prevention
experts call “heavy episodic
drinking.” Forty percent of students
were frequent heavy episodic drinkers,
consuming alcohol in this way three
or more times over a 2-week period.
Now, these numbers are dropping.
In 2005, the university used a strategic
plan to reduce high-risk drinking,
integrating individual and environmental
prevention strategies. The campus follows
the individual SBIRT approach in its
Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention
for College Students (BASICS) program,
said Project Director Diane Fedorchak,
M.Ed., C.A.G.S., at University Health
BASICS targets students who have violated
the school’s alcohol policies,
including possessing alcohol if they’re
underage or having an open container
in a public space.
The intervention consists of two hour-long
sessions. At the first, a master’s
level prevention specialist builds
rapport; assesses the student’s
drinking patterns, drug use, and family
history; and provides information.
talk about what a drink is so students
have a more accurate sense of their
drinking. The intention is for students
to understand that ‘two drinks’ is
two 1.5-ounce servings of vodka, not
two Nalgene bottles full of vodka,” explained
At the second session, the prevention
specialist reviews questionnaire results,
compares the student’s drinking
with that of other students, and offers
suggestions for reducing the amount
Results are impressive on both campus
and individual levels, said Ms. Fedorchak.
The frequent heavy episodic drinking
rate is down 38 percent. The heavy
episodic drinking rate has declined
26 percent. “Our ‘heavy
hitters’ are changing their habits,” she
For more information about SBIRT,
visit SAMHSA’s Web site at www.sbirt.samhsa.gov.
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